|Atomic mass||58.70 amu|
Nickel, discovered in 1751, in a new mineral, niccolite, was found in the copper and cobalt mining region of Sweden. The first miners dug up a mineral with large blotches of green on it and began calling it kupfernickel. The name literally means "false copper" since nickel ores are often found in the same location as copper ores. Expecting to find a large percentage of copper in this mineral, a new element, nickel, was discovered.
Nickel is a hard, malleable, and ductile metal. It has a silvery white appearance, and it can be polished to a lustrous finish. Under normal environmental conditions, nickel does not corrode. Therefore, nickel is a natural choice for a coinage material. Unlike its neighbor to the right (copper ), nickel is only a fair conductor of electricity. However, like its neighbor to the left ( cobalt), nickel possesses outstanding magnetic properties.
Nickel occurs in Canada in the Sudbury Basin of Northern Ontario, where it is mined by Falconbridge Nickel Miners Ltd. and by INCO Ltd. Extensive deposits of nickl-bearing ores are found in the Thompson area of Manitoba. Nickel-copper ores of the Sudbury district have three major sulphide components: pyrrhotite (Fe7S8), pentlandite (NiFeS2), and chalcopyrite (CuFeS2).
Commercial applications of nickel include:
- the fabrication of coin. A Canadian five-cent piece (or "a nickel") is made up of 25% of nickel and 75% copper.
- its use in protecting iron and steel from rusting by shielding the environment from contact with the metal. Nickel sulfate, Ni2SO4, a yellow-green crystal that is industrially important as the medium for nickel plating iron and copper products. A drawback is that if the nickel surface is defective, the rusting of the iron at the exposed spots is accelerated by its presence on adjacent areas.
- its use as an important steel alloying agent (i.e. nickel steels for armour).
- its use in permanent magnets. When nickel is alloyed with cobalt and iron, this combination accounts for most powerful kinds of permanent magnets. Alnico (Aluminum + Nickel + Cobalt) is a hard alloy of aluminum, cobalt, copper, iron, nickel, and occasionally niobium or tantalum, used to make durable magnets.
- the fabrication of Nichrome, an alloy of nickel, chromium, and iron containing about 60-80% nickel, 16% chromium, and small amounts of carbon and silicon. This alloy can withstand very high temperatures and their high electrical resistivity makes them suitable for use in heating elements.
- the fabrication of nickel containers to ship industrial-strength sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. Nickel is unusually resistant to corrosion by alkalis.
- its use in rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries. The material NiO2 serves as a cathode.
- the fabrication of Nichrome, an alloy of nickel, chromium, iron alloys
- its use in powder form, as a hydrogenation catalyst in organic chemistry.